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Doing it differently: uncovering

Should you hide your true self in order to progress? GC looks at some under-the-radar areas of diversity through the lens of NYU law professor Kenji Yoshino’s work on covering, and showcases GCs promoting LGBT diversity and social mobility through ground-breaking initiatives.

LGBT and social mobility initiatives

Clusters of change

Barry Matthews, director of legal affairs and third party sales at ITV, is one of the pioneers of the Legal Social Mobility Partnership, an alliance of law firms and in-house teams providing enriching legal work insight and skills training to year 11, 12 and 13 students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

‘I was a youth worker for 11 years, and I often spoke to very bright kids who would never consider a career in law because they believed people in law weren’t like them. They counted themselves out before they even tried, because it felt like a world that was far removed from their frame of reference.

The Legal Social Mobility Partnership (LSMP) came about following a conversation with Slaughter and May three years ago. We at ITV were impressed by what they had done on their ‘Key Project’ scheme, which included a week of work experience with PRIME [an alliance of law firms and legal departments across the UK committed to broaden access to the legal profession]. We offered to build on this and bolt on some work insight at ITV. During the first week students were given a mock legal task about a hypothetical TV programme. We asked LexisNexis to come in and provide them with legal research training. They were given no guidance other than: this is the brief, here’s access to the LexisNexis tools and to the PSLs [Professional Support Lawyers] of Slaughter and May – it’s up to you to work out how you produce this piece of advice and communicate it to the client. They arrived on the Friday and they were taken to the meeting room by my PA. We conducted the meeting in the same way as we would with our panel firm advisers. During their three-day placement with ITV the following week, they were given one-to-one feedback on everything from their body language, to how they’d structured their advice. We gave real world advice, so they understood that when they walk through the threshold of any organisation they’re on show, and that it matters as much how they treat my PA as how they treat me. Some of them made no eye contact – they were very nervous.

Andrew Garard and I began to think, how can we at ITV make this bigger? In 2014 we ran the first iteration of the Legal Social Mobility Partnership scheme, and I invited Arnold & Porter, Yahoo and Olswang to join. Olswang brought Microsoft, Arnold & Porter brought Viacom and Bird & Bird came along with Yahoo. Last year’s scheme ran with 20 kids, with each of the law firms providing a week of work insight and skills training, followed by a commercial partners’ week consisting of a day with each of the client in-house teams. We added some fairy dust by inviting Harlequins [a UK Rugby Union team] to provide the fifth day. This focused on resilience training and was led by Mark Soden, Harlequins’ performance and development coach, with the chance to meet and ask questions of first team players.

This year, to ensure the scheme didn’t just focus on London, we wanted to do something in Manchester, ITV’s second biggest UK hub. To this end, we created a new cluster of 24 students. We’ve also increased the scale in London to 82 students. We’ve got some big names in the mix: adidas, Manchester United, BT, Co-operative Bank, Wigan Warriors Rugby League Club, Barclays, FremantleMedia, the English RFU, Land Securities and Nomura. These are supported by the addition of Charles Russell Speechlys, Reed Smith, Berwin Leighton Paisner, DLA Piper, Addleshaw Goddard, Squire Patton Boggs, Eversheds and White & Case.

Our 2015 scheme runs over two weeks. It’s a cluster-based model, so law firms partner up with the client, and also with a school or a number of schools. We’ve created an alumni club based around a LSMP LinkedIn group. Going forward, all alumni of the scheme (including the class of 2014) will have ongoing access to advice from partners on the preparation of their CVs, filling in university/job/training contract applications and interview preparation through the LinkedIn group. This will be bolstered by two annual beacon skills events provided by LexisNexis. This means we can track the students' progress and ensure the scheme provides benefit long after the two-week programme.

A lot of the schools the students go to don’t have the resources to provide the range of extra-curricular activities which are commonly available in fee-paying schools. These activities show students as rounded individuals. We wanted not only to give our students some heavy-hitting brand names to make their CVs and personal statements stand out, we also wanted to ensure that they were given skills-based training and experiences they could talk about in interview. We’ve got everything from a negotiation exercise with our programme lawyers, through to Myers-Briggs based workshops on self-awareness and influencing people.

I’ve come from a sporting background, and a real benefit from the world of sports psychology is around resilience and achieving goals. Lots of basic psychological techniques used in high performance sport can be applied to students who don’t necessarily believe the world of law is their world. It’s about dealing with knockbacks and focusing on goals. This is why we’ve devoted an entire day to the psychology of resilience and achieving goals at Harlequins and Wigan Warriors.

The law firms involved are the point of contact with schools and they discuss with them what the selection criteria are. We make it clear that this scheme is for those students who have the academic capability to go on to a career in law, to give kids who have got that capability the best edge. In some schools there’s a heavy selection criteria, including submitting an application and being invited to interview at the law firms.

For in-house counsel, trying to produce a week’s worth of work insight is incredibly difficult. By only producing a day, you can come up with some really stellar content. When you aggregate that with the other in-house counsel days, plus a week’s work insight in a private practice law firm of note, you’ve got something quite special.

It’s also a great opportunity for deepening the relationship between law firm and client, because once you live and breathe the same values of an organisation, you’ve really cracked the relationship. Further, more lawyers being exposed to students from backgrounds which aren’t properly represented in the workforce helps to tackle subconscious bias, which can’t be a bad thing.

At ITV, we’re making a call to arms for all other law firms and their clients to replicate what we’ve done. We’re putting together a “format bible” about how to run a cluster, and offering to provide free consultancy to anybody who wants to implement their own cluster in other cities around the country. We have also built up a suite of materials, from ideas for creating days to all the logistics around health and safety, confidentiality, and parental consent. All of these are freely available to those who want to join and help the process of making the profession truly meritocratic.’

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